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Note: Treating the Disease or Punishing the Criminal? Effectively Using Drug Court Sanctions To Treat Substance Use Disorder and Decrease Criminal Conduct

By Caitlinrose Fisher. Full text here.

Drug courts have been on the rise for the past few decades, providing an alternative criminal supervision system for individuals struggling with addiction and drug dependence. Drug courts provide an intensive supervision model by responding swiftly to probation violations with a series of graduated sanctions. Assuming that drug courts are here to stay, the inevitable question arises: What should the court do if a person cannot abstain from using drugs or otherwise violates the conditions of the drug court? This Note argues that drug courts need to provide a more transparent and consistent method for administering sanctions, drawing upon a model of probation reform, Project HOPE, and the recent reclassification of addiction as “substance use disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). This Note argues that, similar to Project HOPE, drug courts should provide a menu of potential sanctions to participants upon entering the drug court; however, this Note also argues that, unlike Project HOPE, the sanctions should vary based upon whether the violation is disease-driven or non-disease-driven. This solution upholds both the therapeutic and penal components of the drug court, and is most likely to lead to compliance with drug court conditions.